I had never heard of Selva Negra when I was first told that was going to be the place for our two-month reconnect. Situated up in the cloud forests of the Matagalpa highlands, I found myself starting to forget about the rest of the world in the peaceful tranquility. I had never heard of Selva Negra when I was first told that was going to be the place for our two-month reconnect. Situated up in the cloud forests of the Matagalpa highlands, I found myself starting to forget about the rest of the world in the peaceful tranquility.
Selva Negra is a major, organic coffee plantation and resort. The coffee made in this place is some of the finest in Nicaragua and is shipped out all over the world to be sold in organic supermarkets like Whole Foods. When not in coffee season, the plantation also cultivates different types of fruits and flowers.
Getting there was no easy task. I left my site town at 4am to catch a bus to the small highway pueblo of San Benito. Not what most would a pretty site, but it was in this town that I sat and waited on the Peace Corps bus to pick me up. Some of my fellow “tefleros,” as we call ourselves were already on board, and we picked up more on the way. After about three hours we pulled into the highland resort.
The first thing we all noticed was how much colder it was. It was low 50s all day long with lots of wind and misting rain. The nights were much wetter and much much colder. Luckily for us, freezing temperatures are not common. We were still all shivering at least until we could find the one sweater or hoodie that we had brought to this “tropical” country.
After dining at the resorts restaurant and sampling the first non-instant coffee we had drank in almost five months, we started with the main reason for why were here, charlas. If you don’t know what a charla is, it’s basically an information session where we learn either about safety issues, medical things to watch out for or teaching techniques. I have to say that they can be the extremely boring to rather engaging and informative. It’s really luck of the draw on what each will be.
After we were done for the day, the entire group set up a bonfire and we started grilling hotdogs and hamburgers. We even topped it off with a talent show and roasted marshmallows. The clouds cleared off and we sat out under the stars, swapping stories, playing guitars and otherwise just enjoying the company of or fellow TEFL volunteers.
In the morning after another fresh round of charlas, we got to go tour the plantation. Like I said earlier Selva Negra is a completely organic plantation, but it’s really much more than that. It’s completely self-sustaining. They grow banana plants in and among the coffee bushes not just for more crops but because the palms of the banana tree shade the coffee for a semi symbiotic relationship. They also run cattle on the land for milk and homemade fertilizer. They grow or make almost everything that they need, which means the profits all stay with the family.
When people think of plantations here in Nicaragua, they usually picture hundreds of migrant workers slaving away for pennies. Yes, Selva Negra does use migrant labor, but completely differently. They are paid roughly 5-7 dollars a day, but are given housing, food, medical attention, and even primary school education for all children and adults who lack it. Our guide also told us that they prefer to higher the women than the men to work in the fields. “They don’t fight or get drunk or anything,” he said. “They are much more reliable.”
We even met the owner, Señor Khul, pronounced “cool.” I don’t think I’ve met a sharper 72 year old man in my life. His stories of traveling the world, studying in the US and being named the defacto ambassador of Nicaragua to Europe after the contra war ended while he was in Spain definitely earned him his name.
At long lasts it was time for us to leave this amazing place. “Khul” stories, beautiful landscapes and great company; What more could I ask for in a trip in Selva Negra.